European Union Funding

The Malta Police Force has effectively utilized various European Union funds to implement a series of transformative projects aimed at enhancing their operational capabilities and community outreach. These initiatives, supported by EU financial assistance, focus on modernizing equipment, improving infrastructure, and advancing training programs to bolster the force’s effectiveness and efficiency. The projects are diverse, encompassing advancements in cybersecurity measures, the integration of cutting-edge forensic technologies, and the development of community policing strategies.

Below, you can find a detailed list of these projects, each illustrating the strategic use of EU funds to foster a safer and more responsive policing environment in Malta:

This project is a development for the Malta Police Force towards the integration of the databases of the international organizations INTERPOL and EUROPOL, within the National Police System. Specialized units within MPF will have indirect access within the EUROPOL Information System and Interpol FIND database. These databases should serve as an additional information and intelligence with efficient and less time-consuming results to investigations. This project is co-financed by European funds under the ISF (Internal Security Funds) program 2014-2020, where the Malta Police Force spent €1,232,931.26 (inc. VAT) in order to purchase the necessary equipment for the integration of the National Police system with the INTERPOL and EUROPOL databases.

The Malta Police Force (MPF) implemented the Automated Border Control System (ABC) at Malta International Airport (MIA), which introduced two gates at the departure and two gates at the arrival area of the Schengen Area. The EU citizens and Schengen members will be able to use these gates and avoid long queues to travel to countries outside of the European Union and the Schengen area for a more efficient and secure immigration process. These gates support the efficient operations of our immigration unit who safeguard the Maltese and European Borders. This project is co-financed by EU funds through the ISF (Internal Security Fund) programme 2014-2020, with the Malta Police Force spending €918,218.52 (inc. VAT) to procure the system’s hardware and software, service configuration and the necessary training for the immigration officers stationed at MIA.

The Forensic Science Laboratory has recently benefitted from €2.1million EU funds (with co-financing rate 75% EU funds; 25% Beneficiary funds) under the Internal Security Fund, in order to upgrade the Automated Fingerprint and Identification System. Complying with the ISO/IEC17025 standard and the regulations of the – Prüm Treaty, the new AFIS software was developed for the specific use of the forensic department. With the ability of being further upgraded, the AFIS is able to search and compare fingerprint records and help in their identification. 10 new livescans where also bought and installed in the Police stations along Malta and Gozo and specific training was given to the FSL officers who will be making use of such hardware and software. ​

The International Relations Unit benefitted from €800,000 in European funding in that the Case Management System within the SIRENE office, is now accessible by Interpol and Europol departments and other Police Departments / Officers. The system was developed according to the needs of the officials who use it on a daily basis. This upgraded system is also capable of providing the needed statistics. The system is quite easy to use and has helped to reduce the time spent sharing information between different departments. Thanks to this system, much of the works that used to be done on paper is now digital and the same information can be accessed by several officials at the same time. 

The Malta Police Force benefited from the External Border Funds (EBF) which fall under the umbrella of the Funds addressing General Solidarity and Migration Flows for the period of 2007-2013. The rate of co-financing is of 75% from the EU Funds and 25% from National Funds. In fact five projects where co-financed under this EBF by the Malta Police and these are listed below.

  1. The procurement of thirty two-way radios that filled in a vacuum for the officers in charge of external borders. These two-way radios are not only more efficient but cheaper to run and more durable than any other means of telecommunication. These radios facilitate the work of officers during surveillance since they can communicate with a group of people at a time at no cost and have a longer range of reception.

  2. The procurement of thirty hand held biometric devices that facilitate the work of external borders officials that need to cross check fingerprints and passports to the national and international stop lists without the need to have a computer or internet connection since they work with 3G system. In having acquired these devices not only there is mobility but efficiency since illegal residents can be screened and documents scanned on the spot without any waste of time which is crucial in these situations.

  3. In 2013 the NS-SIS Unit proposed two projects under the EBF. The first project had two primarily areas.  The first was to connect the existing Border Control System as to be able to compare and send VISA fingerprints of Third Country Nationals arriving in Malta. This part was completed during November 2014. The second area consisted of the acquisition of 37 workstations complete with fingerprint scanners and passport readers.  These workstations will be deployed in conjunction with the Border Control system and for Border Control application training at the Police Academy; together with the necessity to equip new areas of identified new port of entry within the islands.

  4. The second project focused on the NS-SIS Unit main building and sought to modernize and equip the Data Centre were EU and Border Control systems are run, monitored and maintained on a daily basis by the same NS-SIS Unit members. The project included: turnkey solutions within the main building; Security and Health and Safety infrastructure enhancements; and the purchasing of Information Technology and Communications equipment.  Such measures and acquisitions have been based on international standards to achieve the highest possible performance of technology and respect for the persons working within the department.

  5. The last but not least was the Advance Passenger Information System known as APIS project. This is considered to be the biggest project approved under the EBF. The APIS is considered to be one of the most advanced systems in aviation and maritime security. The project focuses on the purchase and installation of an Advanced Passenger Information System (API) to collect and retrieve all data from airline systems as well as sea carrier systems. The API System will help enable perform risk-based targeted controls on passengers prior to their arrival in Malta in line with Legal Notice 360 of 2007 (European Union Act Cap. 460) Communication of Passenger Data by Air Carriers Order, 2007, transposed EU Directive 2004/82/EC. The API System will enhance border security by providing police and immigration officers with pre-arrival and departure manifest data of passengers and crew members. This will allow the Maltese authorities to check thousands of passengers travelling on various airlines and sea carriers against lists of unauthorized or undesirable persons which also include lists of wanted persons, lists of lost and stolen passport etc. In this regards, the API system will help prevent crimes related to immigration such as organised crime, terrorism and other serious crimes. This will also reduce the number of people that have to be repatriated since the system will alert us before the person can embark his/her means of transportation.​

This project was co-financed by European Union direct funds under the HERCULE III programme, where the Malta Police Force (MPF) benefited from €955,383. The aim of this project was to invest in the Anti-Money Laundering section as well as in the Central Intelligence and Analysis section by purchasing the I2 system, which included the purchase of software and hardware. This investment is expected to enhance the interoperability of the various sections within the MPF.

Additionally, the software, through its advanced system, refers to information gathered from multiple sources, which are utilized by several sections within the MPF. The information collected is stored in repositories and includes data on illegal activities such as fraud, smuggling, theft, money laundering, and other crimes. The I2 system is also well-regarded by many European law enforcement agencies.

The I2 MPF 2018 Project was extensive, involving various activities beyond the procurement of equipment for the I2 system. It included providing the necessary training to the officers from the relevant sections. This training covered technical aspects of using the I2 system, combating fraud, money laundering, and terrorist financing, and included a ‘train the trainer’ course for officials who will subsequently train MPF officers on these topics. These training courses aimed to protect and safeguard the financial interests of both Malta and the European Union.

To enhance operations and improve the MPF’s effectiveness in investigating various crimes, this system has been linked to information repositories both within the MPF and with external sources from other local entities. This connectivity positions the MPF better to exchange information on illegal activities with law enforcement agencies both locally and internationally.

Thanks to this project, the MPF, as a law enforcement agency within the European Union, is now better equipped to operate more effectively.

The Malta Police Force (MPF) is the national agency tasked with law enforcement and crime prevention. Additionally, the MPF oversees border control, with the Commissioner of Police serving as the Principal Immigration Officer. In a collaborative effort, the MPF and the Department of Information Policy and Governance at the University of Malta are involved in the EU Horizon 2020 funded project titled “MIRROR” (Migration-Related Risks caused by Misconceptions of Opportunities and Requirement). This project acknowledges the significant role that perceptions of Europe play in the minds of potential migrants.

MIRROR aims to create a platform that helps stakeholders understand these perceptions, identify how they differ from reality, detect instances of media manipulation, and enhance their capabilities to counter such misconceptions and the associated security threats affecting various groups such as migrants, border authorities, and local communities. A primary research focus for the MPF and the University of Malta is to develop novel methods for extending threat assessment procedures, particularly through the lens of open-source intelligence analysis.

Given Malta’s crucial position in the migration route to Europe, it is vital for the MPF to effectively manage security threats that stem from these perceptions and misconceptions. The proactive collaboration with academia aims not only to develop this capacity but also to enhance cooperation with similar national border agencies across Europe. This project will facilitate the creation of new networks and enable the MPF to exchange best practices in border management and understand migration perceptions in countries of origin, transit, and destination.

The success of the project has been marked by significant networking and dissemination events, including the first progress meeting hosted by the MPF in conjunction with the University of Malta. On November 20, 2019, a visit to the General Headquarters of the MPF included presentations about the project and the operation of the immigration section. A session that followed allowed for audience queries, leading to a discussion that covered MPF’s reporting methods for migrants crossing the Mediterranean, interview interpretation techniques with migrants, and other procedural details.

Additionally, the MPF has been actively involved in several meetings concerning different aspects of the MIRROR project, particularly regarding the design of the user interface for the MIRROR platform. The MPF’s contributions have been instrumental in shaping the platform’s display and functionality to meet the future needs of both the project and the MPF. The MPF also participated in early validation meetings, where new features added to the platform by the University of Malta and other consortium partners were demonstrated. These activities served as a pre-testing phase for the MPF, setting the stage for the forthcoming pilot phase to validate the MIRROR platform and provide feedback on its strengths and weaknesses.

This collaboration between the University of Malta and the MPF underscores the importance of partnerships between law enforcement and academia, enabling the translation of extensive law enforcement experience into effective solutions through academic technical and analytical expertise. We look forward to the practical application of the MIRROR project results and anticipate further collaborations in the future.

The Malta Police’s Passenger Names Record (PNR)/Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) implements best practices for the Passenger Information Unit.
The PNR/APIS analysis system utilizes IBM Analytics and Indicator of Risk (AIR) which combines the results of relationship resolution, rules based targeting and external security system checks to alert the PIU when passenger data indicates that a person of interest is planning to travel to Malta.
AIR analyses a standard, timely and error free, flow of passenger data in advance of their arrival in Malta through the implementation of a passenger data hub, using the IBM Passenger Data Collector (PDC) to insulate the analysis process from complexity of airline messaging systems. PDC provides the airlines with a range of methods and standards to send data to the Malta Police and automatically performs data quality checks and timeliness checks.
The concept of a data gateway to separate security checks from data processing and a secure analysis unit, isolated from the ever changing world of carrier data,  represents the state of the art in PIU design.
The implementation rollout was carried out by the Malta Police together with PTL Ltd as their contractor in the span of 8 months. In implementing it today, the Malta Police has a system that is ahead of many other countries, and puts it on a stable basis to react to future changes.
The PNR is an EU funded project.
The Malta Police Force is in charge of maintaining Malta a safe and secure country; therefore, through its risk analysis and quick response to crises, it strives to eliminate or minimise any risks that may arise. The project thus aimed to furnish the Malta Police Force with the following equipment in order to combat such threats: bullet proof over vests, bullet proof under vests, inflatable vests, stab vests, riot kits (helmets, shin guards, anti-riot shields and carrier bags for anti-riot kits), ballistic plate sets and flame retardant suits with hoods worth € 256,368.60.

The project has thus provided more adequate equipment to assist the Malta Police Force in delivering a better service. The aim of this project was to equip the Malta Police Force with the following equipment: 

  • Bullet proof undervests, overvests and inflatable vests;
  • stab vests and ballistic breast plates sets;
  • riot kits;
  • flame retardant suits with hoods (this being a new addition to the Police Force’s equipment)

All the above equipment shall now assist the Police Officers to deliver a more efficient and effective service, by utilising greater safety measures. It is to be noted that the radios component (as well as their allocated costs and project savings) were transferred to project – New and Complete Infrastructure to House the Command and Control Room. This equipment will maximise the safety of police officers during raids and surveillance of dangerous areas which pose security-related risks and crisis. It will also help in preventing, combating and protecting people and critical infrastructure against cross-border, serious and organised crime including terrorism.​

The Malta Police Force is presently making use of both EU and Local funds to enhance the capacities and capabilities of the Forensic Unit.   One of these said projects, which falls under the Internal Security Funds – (Cooperation with the Police – Prevention in the fight against Criminality),  led to the purchasing of new technological equipment, called Hand-Held Laser Raman Spectrometer Devices. 
This ISF project will be facilitating the identification of confiscated substances, such as, toxic chemicals, narcotics, and also explosives.  Police Officers who will be carrying out tests, making use of this new  hand-held Laser Raman Spectrometer Devices, will receive immediate results, without the need to send such tests to the Forensic Lab at Police Head Quarters.  That way, the time between the collection of evidence, and the issuing of results will be very much curtailed, since police officers would be able to confirm what type of substance they would have found, basically on the spot, such as during a patrol or on a crime scene.  During the past years, some hours or even days would have had to pass, before conclusive results of collected evidence would have been released, now that is not the case any more.  Undoubtedly this project also entails the necessary training, which has been already carried out with a number of police officers attending.  This project introducing ‘mobile policing’ should lead to an increase of Police presence on our roads, thus enhancing the security aspect, while ensuring more success in the fight against criminality.

One of the largest EU information system, the Schengen Information System (SIS), has been upgraded with new functionalities which help in border management, law enforcement and judicial cooperation. The new system can now alert us on additional risks such as, children at risk of abduction by parents/guardians or taken unlawfully abroad, vulnerable adults at risk of becoming victims of gender-based violence as well as identifying unknown perpetrators of serious crime such as terrorist offences. Complementing the exchange of information based on the Prüm regulations, corresponding updates aiming at facilitating the exchange of information regarding such crimes are also facilitated.

Malta has benefitted from a budget €1.2 EU Funds, under the Internal Security Funds, to implement such project.

The SharExPlus project had a total of nine (9) objectives that the consortium partners had to achieve by the end of the project timeline. The consortium partners amongst them have procured, the Evofinder System (ABIS), CartWinPro License, Bullet Catcher Collection Chamber, Mobile Firing Rest Unit, Comparison Microscope and the Double Casting System. Additionally, there were three major events in which the consortium partners had to attend to continue improving their knowledge on gathering and exchanging ballistic data that includes A Specialised Training Course in Germany, an Expert Visit in France and the Final Workshop in Malta.

The main aim of these objectives was to better equip the consortium partners in order enhance their capabilities on carrying out a more effective and efficient law enforcement on a national and international level. It is to be noted that each consortium partner procured their respective equipment based on their initial requirements to improve their own methods in gathering ballistic data.

The project was initiated with a Kick-Off online meeting in September 2021 to introduce and explain the project’s objectives and outcomes required from each consortium partner. One of the main objectives of this project was to procure the Evofinder system (ABIS) since this system provides a way to share and exchange ballistic data between Member States. The Evofinder system was procured by the MPF and IGPR. CFLP, as the main law enforcement in Poland, had to also procure the Evofinder system, however they terminated their participation from the project and didn’t procure the ABIS. Additionally, the CartWinPro license was also procured in which this software helps provide forensic intelligence on ammunition such as information on the manufacturer, country of origin and other valid ballistic information. The MPF also procured the Bullet Catcher, the Firing Rest Unit and the Comparison Microscope whilst the Polish Regional Police procured the Comparison Microscope and the Double Casting equipment. The French National Police’s main role in this project was to provide the necessary guidance to the other consortium partners in Ballistic Evidence Investigations, since as co-leaders in the Firearms EMPACT initiative they had the necessary knowledge to share on Evofinder System and the other ballistic equipment.

The second main result of this project was the strong capacity-building component by delivering the necessary training courses to the consortium partners. The first training delivered was the Toolmarks on Reloaded Ammunition which involved the examination of the marks left by reloading tools, fired tools and spent cartridges. This training was delivered to three (3) MPF officers, four (t4) IGPR officers, three (3) CFLP officers and two (2) PRP officers on the 2nd to 5th May 2022. The second training was the Expert Visit to France for the advanced operational training on the procured Evofinder system (ABIS) and its network which was delivered to three (3) MPF officers and three (3) IGPR officer on the 8th to 12th May 2023.

The third main outcome of this project was the Final Workshop that was held in Malta June 2023, which was attended by the IGPR, PRP, FNP and the supporting partner of this project, Europol. This activity was attended by thirty participants, which composed of consortium partners and Law Enforcement Experts. This workshop was held to share the best practices on ballistic data exchange obtained throughout the project whilst also highlighting the results achieved from the procured equipment and the tests that have been conducted amongst France, Romania and Malta on the sharing of information through the Evofinder System (ABIS).

Throughout the project’s duration, the consortium partners displayed their results through the use of social media posts and publishing articles on their respective national police websites. Additionally, each consortium partner placed stickers and plaques showcasing the EU logo on the respective equipment they procured. It is to be noted that the MPF after consulting the consortium partners coordinated all the meetings held between the partners and uploaded all deliverables including the project progress reports. The consortium partners have received latest equipment and training on international collaboration with foreign law enforcement agencies for the sharing, gathering, and exchange of ballistic data through the SharExPlus Project.

Furthermore, this project has significantly enhanced other law enforcement agencies’ best practices, resulting in more effective and efficient law enforcement. For instance, the consortium members were informed by France, the primary driving force behind the operational activity under EMPACT Firearms, that the Balkan countries have also started implementing the Evofinder system. Portugal, Italy, Sweden, and Croatia are among the EU Countries that are presently debating the introduction of the Evofinder system (ABIS).

As a result of this project’s successful completion, the partners’ ability to enforce EU legislation has also increased. Additionally, this project adheres to the EUROPOL Programme for 2024–2026. The establishment of a knowledge hub for gun trafficking cases within Europol is being complemented through the efforts done by the SharExPlus Project consortium members and project results. Ultimately, this project supports the EU Security Union Strategy in defending Europeans against organized crime and terrorism.

Polish Regional Police in Lublin
General Inspectorate of the Romanian Police
France National Police

As part of the Share Ex Plus Consortium activities, law enforcement agencies from Malta, France, Romania, and Poland participated in a specialized five-day course focusing on forensic toolmarks found on reloaded ammunition. This event took place from May 2nd to May 6th, 2022, at the Königlich firearms society and shooting range in Sandau, Landsberg am Lech, Germany. The course was led by Ing. Axel Manthei, a noted firearms examiner, forensic scientist, and target shooter.

Participants included representatives from various agencies:

  • Malta Police Forensic Science Laboratory: Mr. Charlot Casha, Mr. Patrick Farrugia, and Mr. Ian Farrugia.
  • General Inspectorate of the Romanian Police (IGPR): Mr. George Dobrin, Ms. Roxana Toltica, Mr. Ovidiu Ion, and Mr. Claudiu Calin.
  • Polish Regional Police in Lublin (PRP): Ms. Emilia Pelczarska, Mr. Mariusz Skroban, and Mr. Marek Topyła.
  • Polish Central Police (CFLP): Mr. Grzegorz Bogiel and Mr. Jakub Bosik.

The facility was fully equipped with essential forensic tools including stereo microscopes for each participant, a comparison microscope, various ammunition reloading devices, measuring instruments, different kinds of powder charges, primers, and a wide assortment of bullets and cartridge cases. Additionally, three indoor shooting ranges were available for practical exercises. Each participant also received a personalized copy of all course literature.

The course began with an introduction to various techniques, methodologies, and tools used in ammunition reloading, emphasizing health and safety. The training then advanced to methods of converting specific calibers of cartridges into other calibers and addressed the reloading of obsolete calibers as well as bullet head manufacturing techniques. Participants actively engaged in reloading various types of ammunition and converting cartridges.

The latter part of the course focused on the main objective: examining forensic evidence on reloaded and converted cartridges and bullet heads, including headstamp evidence on the cartridge cases. This part of the training was critical for identifying the tools used during reloading and differentiating marks left by the reloading process from those made by firearms during shooting. All reloading procedures were performed hands-on by the participants, who also discharged the reloaded ammunition using various firearms. This practical session helped them observe how evidence from reloading could survive both the firing and subsequent cleaning processes.

The course concluded with a practical hands-on test where participants identified several types of ammunition to determine their origins and manufacturing details. Following an evaluation of the entire course, Ing. Manthei issued certificates of completion to all participants.

As part of the ShareExPlus Project Consortium between the Maltese, French, Romanian, and Polish Police Forces, Maltese and Romanian ballistics experts attended a three-day expert visit/training course in Ecully, Lyon between the 9th and 11th of May 2023. This course/discussion concerned the lately acquired Evofinder™ automated ballistics system. The Consortium’s ultimate goal is to share/exchange ballistics data between the listed countries, aligning with OAP number 9 of EMPACT firearms, particularly OA number 1.3: “Explore possible solutions for exchanging ballistic data between different Analysis Ballistic Information Systems,” with France leading the initiative.

The Maltese delegation comprised three members of the Malta Police Forensic Science Laboratory, namely Inspector Charlot Casha, in charge of the Forensic Science Laboratory and the project leader, Sergeant Ian Farrugia, and Constable Patrick Farrugia from the Forensic Ballistics Unit. The Romanian Delegation also included three members: Mr. George Dobrin, Ms. Roxana-Sevastiana Toltica, and Mr. Gabriel-Marian Cojocaru.

The expert visit/training commenced on the 9th May with a warm welcome from Mr. Lakdar Attar, Mr. Arnaud Ludwig, and Mr. Philippe Nobles, representatives of the French National Police forensic laboratory. Mr. Attar explained France’s forensic services, highlighting the Ecully Lyon laboratory as one of six housing six forensic units. The delegation also received insights from Mr. Arnaud Ludwig, head of SCAEMS, and Mr. Philippe Nobles, retired head of SCAEMS.

After the addresses, both delegations were guided through the laboratory’s ballistics unit, where procedures for ballistics data input/export were explained. The tour continued through the firearms collection, indoor testing shooting range, and ballistics samples acquisition room, fostering fruitful exchanges among the delegations.

Following lunch, discussions focused on OA 1.3 and constructing a ballistics intelligence hub. The involvement of all member states’ ballistics personnel was emphasized, using the X3P format for accurate data exchange/import between different systems. The possibility of data sharing/exchange was explored, proposing mirrored databases hosted at Europol for enhanced collaboration.

A presentation by Mr. Lakdar Attar detailed the French National ballistics database management, utilizing Evofinder™ and TRAFFIC systems. The TRAFFIC system focuses on organizing seized firearms, aiding investigations, criminal intelligence identification, and generating statistical data. It interfaces with Evofinder™ and employs the QLIK sense platform for data analysis.

The expert visit progressed with a discussion on how the consortium partners can adapt a model of sharing or exchanging ballistics data between them.

All the participants agreed that prior to attempting any form of data sharing or exchange, preliminary proficiency testing of each individual Evofinder™ when it comes to the conversion of data from the native PRV format to X3P should be carried out. X3P is the proposed format for ballistics data sharing between different ballistics systems.

The main objectives of this proficiency testing are:

  • To test the quality of the X3P image.
  • To test the search performance of X3P in relation to PRV format.
  • To compare the performance of three different databases: French, Romanian, and Maltese.

Live quality testing was conducted during the discussion using case samples from the French database. Interesting to note is that Evofinder™ new version allows the operator to connect to the system remotely from any other PC. The imported X3P format image was the assigned sample (left side of the comparison interface), and the PRV format on the candidate side (right side of the comparison interface). Even when the image was enhanced with the equalizer and with identical light sources on both sides, the similarity in terms of quality is very accurate, and there is no difference whatsoever. Score was 0.984 and 0.309 in X3P with the whole French national database. This means that the system worked well.

With regards to the possibility of data sharing/exchange, the situation of Evofinder™ in the Western Balkans was discussed. In 2021 France donated 3 Evofinder™ systems and 1 TRAFFIC database system in Belgrade. These are distributed amongst the Bosnia and Herzegovina Federation, Republika Srpska, and Podgorica (Montenegro). The donation also included the necessary training on both systems. In 2022 another Evofinder™ and TRAFFIC database were installed in Skopje, and in 2023 two TRAFFIC and five Evofinder™ systems were also installed in Pristina. The connection with the Balkan authorities is based on mirrored databases and not with the actual database. The final objective in the Western Balkans is to complete the harmonization of all Evofinder™ systems.

All this was put in perspective with regards to the possibilities of future international collaborations/connections. For different ballistics systems, constraints are present when it comes to correlation/comparison due to different formats. However, since an open-source framework is used for TRAFFIC database, the connection of two such databases located in different localities is possible. In the Western Balkans data exchange (export/import) is possible between different 3D ballistics systems, only if both systems allow standard export. At present, Evofinder™ and Balscan™ systems can exchange/share data between them using the X3P format.
This file format can be utilized in the European server and there will be no issue between these two systems. The issue arises with IBIS™ system users since it does not recognize X3P.

Later on, Mr. Lakdar Attar gave a presentation on the TRAFFIC database. He explained how Europol’s main target is to create an intelligence hub based on two pillars. One is the ballistics data evidence pillar, and the other is the intelligence-based pillar. TRAFFIC (targeted response arms fraudulently fabricated imported commercialized) database tackles the latter.
TRAFFIC offers the possibility of organizing not just the amount of illegal firearms, but also classifies them according to make, model, caliber, etc. It was created to merge the technical and administrative aspects of seized illegal firearms.

Its three main objectives are:

  1. Assist in the investigations (type of firearm, identification, ballistic matches).
  2. Identification of criminal intelligence (trends, emerging facts, flow of weapons, usual calibers).
  3. Generate statistical data (seizure of firearms, brands, modifications).

All seized illegally owned firearms, and later examined are inputted in TRAFFIC together with their respective SIENA and EUROPOL alerts. From this information, different types of data (ballistic forensic intelligence) can be extracted to be utilized in recognizing different aspects as described above. The database does not include no personal data, and the only technical specifications needed are open source software Technical specifications needed are open source software, or on the field or in the lab. Data can be exported in PDF or CSV formats for compatibility with other applications. Another possibility is the connection between Evofinder™ and TRAFFIC database using the QLIK sense platform. The latter uses AI to help users understand and use data more effectively, minimizing cognitive bias, amplifying discovery, and elevating data literacy.

The expert visit ended on the 11th May 2023 with the presentation of certificates.

Introduction to the Workshop

As part of the ShareExPlus Project Consortium between the Maltese, French, Romanian, and Polish Police, their respective Forensic Experts attended a final workshop in Malta on June 20th, 2023. The workshop was kicked-off by Deputy Commissioner of the Malta Police Force Mr. Sandro Gatt explaining the main outcome of the implementation of the SharExPlus Project, such as sharing/exchanging ballistics data gathered using the EvofinderTM automated ballistics system between the Consortium partners.

Presentations and Technical Discussions

The Maltese delegation composed of Sergeant Ian Farrugia and Constable Patrick Farrugia began presenting by showing the different cartridge casing images they received from France and Romania in different image formats. France sent four (4) cartridge casing images (PRV and X3P formats) while Romania sent four (4) cartridge casing images and four (4) bullet images (PRV/BUL and X3P format). The MPF continued by comparing these types of image formats and displaying the difference between them. The scope of this exercise was to test; the accuracy of each individual Evofinder™ in the respective country, the quality of the 3D image when it comes to correlation with data stored in each police database and evaluate and compare each individual correlation result with the ones obtained by France and Romania. Through the use of the X3P format, the importing and exporting of cartridge cases image from one EvofinderTM to another is possible. Nonetheless, more research and development regarding the X3P format is required, as auto-correlation between the X3P and BUL images files in the police database is not possible. From the MPF’s end, the X3P file format is seen as a sufficient solution for exchanging/sharing ballistic data between EvofinderTM systems located in the different member states.

International Collaboration Insights

The Romanian Delegation from the Romanian National Police, Mr. Valentin Epure explained that data exchanging between Evofinder systems is possible by importing and exporting images with associated ballistic information, using the native file formats .PRV (cartridge cases) and .BUL (Bullets) which can only be accessed by an Evofinder. On the other hand, the universal file format .X3P can be accessed by certain applications and other ABIS. This file format is for the storage and exchange of topography and profile data (3D representation of a surface area or profile). Additionally, since the .X3P is a universal file format it can be used to exchange ballistic data between other Evofinder systems from the same vendor or different vendors all the same.

For this workshop Romania created file samples both in PRV/BUL and in X3P format to be imported into the Evofinder, with the purpose of evaluating the results in comparison to the results of the other Consortium Partners while also to test the image quality of the .X3P format.

Innovative Techniques from Poland

Polish Delegation from the Polish Regional Police in Lublin. Polish forensic experts use a double casting system which allows them to make replicas of shell casing, bullets, bullet cups parts and weapon elements. This system allows them to reproduce the finest details for these replicas through the use of silicones and resins that have no structure of their own. This process allows for easy separation of the replica from the cast surface and the materials used to makes the castings are chemically neutral against the surface of the original cartridge. These replicas can be sent to a member state such as Romania or Malta for identification tests with the use of the Evofinder system without sending any evidence material. Mr. Marek Topyla has explained the importance of such equipment for their forensic experts to communicate with other law enforcement agencies (LEAs) both within Poland and with LEAs from EU member states.

French Contributions and Future Directions

French Delegation representing the France National Police. French Police ran a series of pre-performance tests regarding the automatically comparison of the evofinder system, in the native format old version (6.6) against the new version (6.7). These pre-performance test was conducted using the real French database containing 85,298 cases, the Evofinder version 6.6, and version 6.7 of the Evofinder which will be operational in the coming months. Additionally, these versions were installed on two different computer with the same specifications. It is to be noted that version 6.7 can both import and export in the .X3P file format while version 6.6 can only import. France are presently supporting and leading similar projects in order to increase visibility for European LEAs to exchange and share ballistics information. They have raised the achievements of the SharExPlus Project during the EMPACT operational action meetings.

EUROPOL’s Support and Strategic Initiatives

European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (EUROPOL) Delegation. A Senior Specialist on Weapons & Explosives expert from the agency have delivered a presentation on how beneficial is the SharExPlus Project for EUROPOL. He explained that the project is targeting the priorities of EUROPOL and the upcoming initiatives that go hand in hand with the achievements achieved from the project. It was explained that in EUROPE there are different ABIS systems, and this means that one must find a communication channel with the different ABIS. This is already being discussed during EMPACT Meeting, however a more coordinated approach must be put in place in order to gather ballistic data in a more efficient manner. He added that besides the Evofinder system beneficial tool EUROPOL is also urging LEAs to acquire the Weapon Identification System (TRAFFIC) in order to have a centralized weapon identification system. The presentation concluded with an action plan laid by EUROPOL for 2023 and 2024 in order to strategize accordingly. The final aim is to have a European Firearms Intelligence Hub that will incorporate a ballistics intelligence network which involves the integration of EVOFINDER and IBIS technologies while also creating a Weapons Identification System at Europol using the TRAFFIC tool/database.

Conclusion of the Workshop

The workshop was concluded through a panel discussion between the consortium partners and chaired by the EUROPOL expert. The main conclusions reflected the achievement of Malta and Romanian in procuring the Evofinder system and joining other LEAs to be able to share and exchange ballistic data accordingly. Furthermore, this workshop was useful in identifying the gaps of the formats and channels being used within the Evofinder system. This gives further insights for EUROPOL and EMPACT partners to work to have a better and unified system. The workshop also brought about the element of best practices between partners from the presentations that were delivered by each consortium partner, this proved that cooperation throughout the project was fruitful and through the activities of the project they have all shared their knowledge accordingly while they learned new practices. Ultimately, this workshop was beneficial as it brought around the table all the partners together with EUROPOL. The SharExPlus Project was supported by EUROPOL and it has assisted them in having a better picture of the project activities and it’s achievements. The project has reached its target audience and showed what is the plan ahead and how can the project continue builds upon its results.

The Cyber Crime Unit has benefitted from over €525,000 co-financed by the EU under the ISF (Internal Security Funds) programme. The project included the procurement of mobile multi-purpose vehicles, search kits, workstations, improved forensic equipment and the latest IT solutions for the storage of data. The Cyber Crime Unit is now better equipped to cater for the ever increasing workload, increasing the efficiency of the Unit and producing better results during arraignments. This Unit is now also connected to the INTERPOL’s Child Sexual Exploitation Database for which members of the Cyber Crime Unit have attended a 1 week training by INTERPOL at the GHQ. This project followed the investment of €700,000 from National funds to set-up a larger and modernised Cyber Crime Unit office.